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New Postering Legislation Adopted

Note: For more information, contact Annual Permits, Street Use, Seattle Department of Transportation, (206) 684-5267 or e-mail at annualpermits@seattle.gov.

Preserving the right to find lost pets, advertise garage sales and promote your local rock-n-roll band, the City Council passed legislation, introduced by Mayor Nickels, allowing citizens to put up posters in their neighborhoods.

"These new regulations represent a win for everyone. Free speech rights have been upheld, and the City of Seattle will be able to maintain safety in the broadest sense," said Nickels.

The Council action officially repealed the existing City laws which banned posters. The Washington State Court of Appeals found that parts of the Citys poster ban were unconstitutional, but allowed the City to regulate the time, place and manner of poster placement.

"This law will allow the City to regulate postering in a reasonable manner," said Seattle City Council member Nick Licata. "It should meet the Courts approval and avoid future law suits."

The ordinance outlines poster placement, size and length of display. Those placing the poster are responsible for their removal; however, the City can remove signs that are in violation or expired.

"We want this to be a self-enforcement process," added Nickels. "We want communities to be able to communicate, but also have the tools to keep their surroundings clean and safe."

Background

The City of Seattle adopted legislation in 1994 that, among other things, prohibited anyone from affixing any handbill, sign, or poster to any utility poles, lamp poles, and traffic control devices. In August 2002, the Washington State Court of Appeals determined that these parts of Seattle's "poster ban" violated the Washington State Constitution. However, the Court found that the City could regulate the time, place, and manner of temporary signs.

City actions to allow posters

In response to the Court determination, Seattle drafted an ordinance to repeal specific parts of the poster ban and drafted a Director's Rule that detailed the procedures and rules for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to administer the new ordinance. SDOT posted these draft rules on it's web site and invited public comment. The City also completed an environmental review and published a Declaration of Non-Significance. Councilmember Nick Licata's Neighborhoods, Arts, and Civil Rights Committee was briefed twice on the issue: once in October and once in December. The full Council approved the ordinance and Mayor Greg Nickels signed it in December 2002. Grace Crunican, Director of SDOT, signed the Director's Rule in early January 2003, completing the City's action to enable postering and manage it in balance with other City responsibilities.

Public comment and changes to the Director's Rule

More than 80 people commented on the draft Director's Rule during the public review period. Many of these comments are reflected in the final Director's Rule.

Highlights of the Director's Rule: "Postering 101"

The following simple rules can help anyone considering hanging a poster or handbill on Seattle's Streets. (For further detail, please refer to the actual Director's Rule, see link below.)

The "Do's" of Postering

  • Posters can be hung without a permit - no permit fees are required.
  • Posters can be placed on utility poles, street light poles, and on traffic sign posts except that:
    • No posters are allowed on stop or yield sign posts or on the backs of those signs;
    • Posters that share poles or posts with traffic signs cannot face the same direction as the traffic signs.
  • Include a printed posting date in the lower left corner of each poster;
  • Make your posters out of thin and flexible paper, cardboard, or plastic.
  • Poster size can be up to 24 inches vertical and 18 inches horizontal and, if hung on sign posts, limit the overhang to 6 inches on each side of the post;
  • Use tape, string, or staples not larger than 3/8 inch and 0.050 gauge to attach posters.
  • Posters can be hung up to 7 feet from the ground on poles and posts.
  • Posters may be displayed for 30 days or until the date of any event advertised, whichever time comes first. The person or organization hanging the posters has a 10-day grace period to remove the posters before the City can charge costs for removal.
  • The removal process:
    • The person or organization placing the signs is responsible for removing the signs;
    • City forces may remove expired signs at any time, but can collect costs only for those signs the City removes after the 10 day grace period;
    • The City may remove signs that violate the rules at any time and charge for the costs of removal. There is no grace period for signs in violation of the rules;
    • The City encourages self-policing and removal of expired posters so that City forces can be used on other priorities.

The "Do Not's" of Postering

  • Do not hang posters on "Stop" or "Yield" sign posts or on the backs of those signs.
  • Do not hang posters on structures such as trees, signal control boxes, street furniture, bus shelters, bicycle racks, or art. Remember: poles and posts: 'yes'; other structures 'no'.
  • Don't design your posters to mimic traffic control signs.
  • Don't hang posters facing the same direction as traffic control signs on the same pole or post.
  • Don't hang signs that flash, or have any rotating parts, or wind-animated objects, or lights or video display.
  • Don't make your signs out of wood, metal, or heavy plastic.
  • Posters over posters are not allowed. Posters can be only one layer thick. This avoids build-up of posters.
  • Don't use glue or nails or staples larger than 3/8 inch and 0.050 gauge to hang posters.
  • Don't hang your posters higher than 7 feet above the ground.
  • Don't leave your posters up beyond their expiration date and grace period.

Why the rules are needed

Safety:

  • The Director's Rules are needed to manage the posting of temporary signs to address City responsibilities for safety and aesthetics.
  • Temporary signs can't obscure traffic signs or distract motorist's attention from the important messages provided by regulatory, warning, and destination signing.
  • The City has a responsibility to help minimize potential for injury to pedestrians and bicyclists caused by them running into signs made of inflexible materials placed low on poles and hung with sharp fasteners.
  • Utility and Maintenance worker safety: The rules reduce the risk of falls by Utility Workers climbing poles if their spurs do not find a solid grip in wood poles.
  • The rules reduce the risk of workers being injured by sharp metal fasteners in poles and sign posts.

Aesthetics:

The City's rules also help manage visual blight by ensuring that the outdated, torn, and damaged signs that constitute litter do not accumulate.

Contact

Annual Permits, Street Use, Seattle Department of Transportation, (206) 684-5267 or e-mail at annualpermits@seattle.gov.

Director's Rule 02-02 - Posting of temporary signs on City owned utility poles, lampposts, and traffic signposts in planting strips. (PDF format)

Final Ordinance 121038 (PDF format)

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